It was obvious from the outset that improving women’s access to digital financial services would become a thrust area of the Innovation Fund for Mobile Money. Since the project’s launch in 2013, BRAC Social Innovation Lab has partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to experiment with mobile money services and products. We initially piloted within a number of programmes before deciding to scale our solutions in Microfinance, Education, and Integrated Development. The project has since introduced female clients to mobile money through savings products, salary and school fee collection.
The reason to primarily focus on women was that anecdotal experience and research both indicate that household expenditure on food and education increase when women have greater control over income. Further, women are more likely to save and use those savings to invest in their own businesses and in a better future. And the benefits of closing the gender gap in financial inclusion don’t stop with women or remain limited to the present. Greater equality also enhances economic productivity and improves development outcomes for the next generation.
This booklet is our fourth in a series documenting the experience of scaling mobile money. And this time, we have dedicated it to the women of BRAC: those we work for, and with. In it, we will highlight three key drivers we have identified behind the persistent gender gap in Bangladesh, and the steps we have taken in response. We will describe how our female staff and clients have tested, adopted, and (most importantly) adapted mobile money in ways that make sense for them. And we will share our observations of the power of women in acting as agents of change: how progress towards financial wellbeing is not limited to just a single client opening a wallet, but ripples outwards to encompass families, communities, and economies.